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Meghan Markle to join Queen at official event for first time

The Westminster Abbey service will mark Commonwealth Day.

Meghan Markle will attend her first official event with the Queen when she joins senior royals at a service marking Commonwealth Day.

The Westminster Abbey event will be a public acknowledgement by the Queen of the US actress, who will soon be joining her family when she marries Prince Harry on May 19.

The Commonwealth Day service on Monday will also be attended by the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and the Prime Minister.

But the Duke of Edinburgh, who has effectively retired from public duties, will not be attending.

In her Commonwealth Day message, which will feature in the service, the Queen has praised the “Commonwealth connection” that allows people from different nations to bond and celebrate “diversity”.

London will soon host a gathering of leaders from the “family of nations” and the Queen also paid tribute to the biennial event, an example of how consensus can “help to create a future that is fairer, more secure, more prosperous and sustainable”.

In her message the Queen says: “Through exchanging ideas, and seeing life from other perspectives, we grow in understanding and work more collaboratively towards a common future.

“There is a very special value in the insights we gain through the Commonwealth connection; shared inheritances help us overcome difference so that diversity is a cause for celebration rather than division.

“We shall see this in action at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which takes place in the United Kingdom next month, bringing together young people, business and civil society from across the Commonwealth.

“These gatherings are themselves fine examples of how consensus and commitment can help to create a future that is fairer, more secure, more prosperous and sustainable.”

Former One Direction band member Liam Payne will perform during the service, and the reflection will be given by Dr Andrew Bastawrous, an eye surgeon who has turned a smartphone into an examination tool to combat avoidable blindness in developing counties.

William faced criticism last year when he missed the service to attend his controversial lads-only skiing holiday in Verbier.

Newspapers poked fun at the future king’s “dad dancing” when video footage emerged of his antics on the dance floor and in the DJ booth during the trip.

After the service, William, Kate, Harry and Meghan will attend a private reception for those involved in the event.

The Commonwealth has played an important role throughout the Queen’s reign, and she takes a special interest in the family of nations.

Harry and Meghan signalled their commitment to the Commonwealth and its people when they both mentioned the institution – which has the Queen as its head – during an interview to mark their engagement.

The prince said they looked forward to travelling around the Commonwealth, meeting some of the 2.4 billion people from the 53 member states.

Organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth service is the largest annual inter-faith gathering in the UK and will be broadcast live by the BBC.

Other royal guests include the Duke of York, Princess Royal, Countess of Wessex, the Duchess of Gloucester and Princess Alexandra.

Also among the 2,000 strong congregation will be the prime minister of Malta Joseph Muscat, Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland, high commissioners, ambassadors, senior politicians from across the UK and Commonwealth, faith leaders and more than 800 schoolchildren and young people.

The theme for this year’s service is Towards a Common Future, emphasising how the Commonwealth can address global challenges and work to create a better future for all citizens through the sub-themes of sustainability, safety, prosperity and fairness.

Later that evening Charles, Camilla and William will be guests of Baroness Scotland at a reception at Marlborough House, the home of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the institution’s civil service.

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